Tracks In The Snow

It's his tenth birthday tomorrow. I only saw him for four of them, his life snuffed out just shy of my son blowing out the candles for his fifth. His heart has been still longer than it thumped thumped under the pale white skin covering his chest.

I thought I'd be further along by now. I thought the pain would be numbed by the tic tocking of the passing of time; I believed I'd grow immune to this dull throb that aches my heart daily.

The canvas of my life is barren, whited out as though a blizzard swept through and covered everything with heavy white snow. I'm washed out. Only now the snow isn't pristine, it's riddled with the footprints of my grief, trudged back and forth through this never-ending winter as I hunt for signs of life, of joy, once more. I miss the pristine, freshly fallen snow. When the pain was razor sharp and the air was so cold it burned my lungs as I drew it into my body. I'm numb to it now, perpetually chilled, alone. He was closer to me then, when the snow was fresh. Every footstep I make in this snow of grief seems to tamp his memories further away from me.

It's a weird thing to grieve a son the world, I, barely knew. They, the world, the authorities on grief, they all told me there was no time limit to this pain. They told me it would haunt me until it wouldn't anymore. They told me to try and move on. To forgive. To forget.

But I can't.

I can't forgive. It's too vast and I don't know who to ask forgiveness from. God? He has long since abandoned me, even as the cries from well meaning Christians argue otherwise. Myself? I was his mom. My sole task in life was to ensure he outlived me. I failed. My son? He died on me, leaving his siblings and his father alone with me to struggle in this pain forever.

I can't forgive my relatives and my friends for no longer sharing this pain with me. They've moved on while I'm still stuck, spinning in this snow, looking for a way out.

There is no one to forgive, nothing to forgive and yet forgiveness is the one thing I seek and the one thing I can't seem to find.

On his tenth birthday for my son, my ghost child, I'm mad. I'm mad at myself for feeling like this, mad at everyone who doesn't. I'm mad small children have grown up and forgotten he lived, I'm angry new children have been born and will never have the chance to forget him.

I'm furious his siblings have had to trudge through this blanket of snow beside me, making their own indelible footprints in this blizzard of pain. They were children. They are children. Smalls who should have never known a pain like this. It tears me apart even wider with every tear spilled over their lashes as they miss their brother.

Failure has defined my parenting and marked itself all over my life and there is little I can do to erase the stench of it. Failure to protect, first Shale and then his siblings. The smell is everywhere, like the cloying smell of mothballs in an old wood trunk. I can't escape it, I can't cover it up.

I've spent the past five years, the past six January fourths trying to overcome this pain. This day. I've dedicated my life to remembering joy, to teaching my children to forget survival and aim for thriving. I practice what I preach, I own it. I work hard to make sure this tragedy hasn't shaped us all into misfits unrecognizable by our community, abandoned because we couldn't rise above our own misfortune.

But this year is different. It feels as though I'm on a precipice. The cliffs of time are crumbling beneath me, dragging me further away from the life I knew, the person I was, the son I had. I'm struggling to find a foothold to hang on to, to cling to the walls of these memories. I don't know how to let go. I'm scared of what awaits me when my fingers tire and I slip off this cliff. Will he be forgotten for good or will I be further ravaged by the monster of guilt that has nibbled at my soul for years?

Nothing has changed yet every thing is different.

They, the world, the authorities on grief, they left something out as they dumped their sage wisdom of grief survival on me. They forgot to tell me the more joy I felt the harder it would be to remember, to cling to my son. The more memories I created, the bigger the hole in my heart would seem when fresh memories of my son failed to fill my soul. The more I heal the harder my heart bleeds.

I wish I had known. I wish I didn't know now.

I'm tired of pretending. I'm not okay. I'm not fine. My soul shattered like a mirror dropped on the floor and while love has helped glue it back together, the edges are jagged and I'm not whole. None of us ever will be and the weight of this is heavy on my tired shoulders.

I don't know how to stop loving my son or being his mother and I'm tired of only having two days a year to acknowledge he lived. He lives. In me with every breath I take. I'm tired of parenting an invisible child no one else can see but me. I'm tired of all the days in between his birthday and his death day and for every moment I have to push aside this boy memory of mine and live. When he does not.

It's my son's tenth birthday tomorrow and there is no boy to blow out the candles on his cake.

But there will be more tracks in the snow as I search once more for peace, for forgiveness.